Is the collapse of the Mayan civilisation an analogue for the fate of ours?

Guardian: “Population explosion, ecological disaster and weak leadership … that’s what probably killed off the Maya at the height of their powers. Are the modern-day parallels too close for us to ignore? Rory Carroll reports.”“Shortly after its apogee, around AD800, the Mayan civilisation, the most advanced in the western hemisphere, withered. Kingdoms fell, monuments were smashed and the great stone cities emptied. Tikal now stands as an eerie embodiment of a society gone wrong, of collapse. How it came to pass is a question that has long fascinated scholars. ….”We think we are different,” says Jared Diamond, the American evolutionary biologist. “In fact . . . all of those powerful societies of the past thought that they too were unique, right up to the moment of their collapse.” The Maya, like us, were at the apex of their power when things began to unravel, he says. As stock markets zigzag into uncharted territory and ice caps continue to melt, it is a view increasingly echoed by scholars and commentators. …The idea is expanded in his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. The link between environmental, economic and political stress is clear, says Diamond. “When people are desperate and undernourished, they blame their government, which they see as responsible for failing to solve their problems.” …”The carrying capacity of the ecosystem was pushed to its limits,” says Marcello Canuto, an anthropology professor at Yale. Lakes became silted and soils exhausted. Tilling and man-made reservoirs provided more food and water but population growth outstripped technological innovation.” He says this of the leaders: “They did not respond correctly to a crisis which, in hindsight, was as clear as day.” ….The environmental trouble built up over centuries and was partly concealed by short-term fluctuations in rainfall patterns and harvest yields. But when the tipping point came, events moved quickly. “Their success was built on very thin ice. Kings were supposed to keep order and avoid chaos through rituals and sacrifice,” says David Webster, author of The Fall of the Ancient Maya. “When manifestly they couldn’t do it people lost confidence and the whole system of kingship fell apart.” “You know, human beings are always surprised when things collapse just when they seem most successful. We look around and we think we’re fat, we’re clever, we’re comfortable and we don’t think we’re on the edge of something nasty. Hubris? No: ignorance.” “In common with the Maya, we’re not very rational in how we think about how the world works. They had their rituals and sacrifices. Magic, in other words. And we also believe in magic: that money and innovation can get us out of the inherent limits of our system, that the old rules don’t apply to us.” ….If traders and their mumbo jumbo about securitisation and derivatives resemble Mayan priests chanting in their temples then Bush and Gordon Brown are the hapless kings who egged them on rather than query the “magic”.  …Michael Coe, author of the seminal 1966 text, The Maya: “No civilisation lasts for ever. Most go for between 200 and 600 years.” The Maya, Romans and Angkor of Cambodia lasted 600. And us? “Western civilisation began with the Renaissance, so we’re hitting 600 years,” says Coe. “The difference is we have a choice whether to let things get worse or fix them.”